WHO scrambles to clarify comments on asymptomatic coronavirus unfold, says much is still unknown

Maria Van Kerkhove, head of the World Health Organization’s rising illnesses and zoonosis unit, speaks throughout a press convention following an emergency committee assembly over the brand new coronavirus in Geneva on Jan. 22, 2020.

Pierre Albouy | AFP | Getty Images

The World Health Organization scrambled Tuesday to clarify its comments earlier this week that transmission of the coronavirus by individuals who by no means developed signs is “very rare,” which drew skepticism from physicians and others throughout social media. 

Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, head of WHO’s rising illnesses and zoonosis unit, stated it is a “really complex question” and much is still unknown.

“The majority of transmission that we know about is that people who have symptoms transmit the virus to other people through infectious droplets. But there are a subset of people who don’t develop symptoms,” she stated on a dwell Q&A streamed throughout a number of social media platforms. “To truly understand how many people don’t have symptoms, we don’t actually have that answer yet.” 

Asymptomatic unfold of the coronavirus does happen, Dr. Mike Ryan, government director of the WHO’s emergencies program, stated throughout the Q&A. However, the portion of asymptomatic people who transmit the virus stays a “big open question.”

“There is much to be answered on this. There is much that is unknown,” he added. “It’s clear that both symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals are part of the transmission cycle. The question is what is the relative contribution of each group to overall number of cases.”

An asymptomatic individual is somebody with Covid-19 who would not have signs and by no means develops signs. Both scientists clarified that it isn’t the identical as somebody who later develops signs, who can be labeled as pre-symptomatic.

On Monday, WHO officers stated asymptomatic individuals aren’t driving the unfold of the virus, casting doubt on issues by some researchers that the illness might be tough to comprise due to asymptomatic infections.

“From the data we have, it still seems to be rare that an asymptomatic person actually transmits onward to a secondary individual,” Kerkhove stated at a information briefing Monday from the WHO’s Geneva headquarters. “It’s very rare.”

Kerkhove stated Tuesday she was referring to “a very few studies, some two or three studies, that have been published that actually tried to follow asymptomatic cases.”

“That’s a very small subset of studies,” she stated.

Ryan acknowledged that Kerkhove’s comments created a stir, saying they might have been “misinterpreted or maybe we didn’t use the most elegant words to explain that.”

“We need that debate,” he stated. 

“If journalists and the public think we’re straying away from evidence, then fine,” he stated. That’s what this is for. If you assume there is not a foundation for what we’re saying then let’s have that debate one-on-one. That’s why we’re right here. That was not meant. That was not the intention of the assertion.”

This is a creating story. Please examine again for updates.

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